Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has a new national press secretary he hopes will help him win minority voters and smooth over relations with Black Lives Matter activists.
Symone Sanders (no relation to the candidate), has joined the campaign. A young black woman with a history of activism, she left the Campaign for Juvenile Justice to join Hillary Clinton's strongest challenger on the campaign trail.
Only 25 years old, Symone Sanders has spent many years working in politics an communications. A highlight of her early activism came in 2006, when as a member of Girls Inc. she introduced Bill Clinton at the end of the year fundraiser. Clinton told her that she "spoke so well, I kind of hate to follow you." Years later Clinton would mention Symone Sanders in his book Giving as a woman who had "come a long way and is going a lot further."
When Sanders introduced herself to a 27,500-person crowd at the Bernie Sanders rally on Sunday night, opening up for the Vermont senator, she warmed up the crowd by saying things like the candidate himself has often said, such as "Black Lives Matter" and "these killings must end." But the difference between Bernie and Symone is authenticity.
Bernie Sanders has struggled to win over minority voters during his campaign, a major obstacle to becoming a legitimate threat to Clinton's nomination. He has also been shouted down by Black Lives Matter activists who have protested his speeches to progressive audiences, creating awkward situations for a politician who bills himself as a lifelong supporter of the civil rights movement.
"It is very important that we say the words 'black lives matter,' Symone Sanders said at the rally. "But it's also important to have people in political office who are going to turn those words into action. No candidate for president is going to fight harder for criminal justice reform and racial justice issues than Senator Bernie Sanders."
Symone Sanders went on to list off the names of those African Americans killed by police officers during the past year, to loud applause. When Bernie Sander tried to speak to similar topics at Netroots Nation last month, he was booed off the stage.
"When you look into your hearts, deep into your hearts, you know which candidate for president will shut down the private prison industry, mandatory minimums, the death penalty," Symone Sanders said. "You know which candidate will have alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, and which candidate will really use his justice department to protect black lives."
After her speech Bernie took to the stage. Not a single protester interrupted. The Sander campaign hopes this is a signal of what is to come when he next speaks to a more neutral progressive audience.